Thursday, 29 May 2014

The Wizar'd – Ancient Tome of Arcane Knowledge (2013) / 95%

The Grand Winner of the Doom Wizard Battle

The doom quartet from Tasmania is back with their third full length album and it's definitely their best yet! I wasn't much of a fan of the slow dragging doom of Infernal Wizardry but Pathways to Darkness was pretty enjoyable and their latest follows in the same vein except the songwriting has improved considerably. The riffs are tighter, the vocals even more catchy than before, goddamn I like this album! They may have found their sound on Pathways but they truly develop and affirm it on Ancient Tome  and I'm so glad they did since it's a short but oh pleasant ride.

We're served with fast to mid paced traditional doom and with only six songs for a bit more than thirty minutes of music but it's all the time they needed to leave a well lasting impression on me. The songs are not more than six and a half minutes and they never overstay their welcome unlike many doom nowadays. The band has a clear direction, there's no wandering around the bushes, they comfortably piss where they want to unlike the terrible doom of “popular” American bands like Pilgrim or Pallbearer.

The band shines pretty much everywhere, their riffs are fucking groovy and all great and their solos are magical incantations with the mana to wake up a thousand Snorlaxes! These leads are probably the highlights for me, they're so tight and fun to air guitar to! Even if the album is rather short, there's still mournful slow parts like the debut of “Blaspheme” or “Far Away Castles”, a song paying homage to the glorious atmospheric gloom of “Planet Caravan”. They already did that with “Franki's Dungeon” on the previous album and it's once again quite a success here.

CD version

Doom metal is often accused of being derivative of Black Sabbath's genre but The Wiza'rd are nothing like a copycat, their sound is pretty damn original. They mix the classy lead oriented feel found in Pagan Altar with a shitload of NWOBHM influenced and trad doom riffs. It's quite well produced too, the sound is massive  and it's conceivable right from the start with the killer track “Turn To Evil” with its entertaining demeanor. The double guitar attack is also another thing that could set them apart from most of their contemporaries, it assures that the band stays interesting while their numerous solos are blistering through the air. The bass played by a lovely witch is loud and can perhaps recall the stoner side of doom or the overbearing playing of Albert Witchfinder but admittedly restrained in order to get a sort of instrumental unity throughout the album.

Ol' Rusty's vocals are perhaps an acquired taste but I'll hate you if you don't like them! I reckon he could be a deal breaker for those who listen to doom metal in the hopes of finding another singer like Messiah Marcolin. I have some news for you, it's not needed! Doom is all about feels and The Wiz'ard knows how to write emotional driven songs with memorable hooks and strong musicianship. The singer/lead guitarist takes the high, nasal Geddy Lee/Ozzy Osbourne trademark vocals and push them to their extreme and he's damn good at it. I was immediately hooked by his hailing voice singing the great vocal melodies, he's peculiar, original and oddly charismatic. It fits the “out there” vision of the band, it's quirky, weird trad doom while being overtly catchy and fun. Furthermore, it's pretty different from their first album released in 2008 that was using some sort of semi raspy early Dorrian style of vocals that were not particularly good but were a decent fit to the mournful, slow sort of doom explored back then. I usually dig that sort of stuff but they weren't just very good at it. Their evolution turns out to be an interesting and joyful one.

Illustrated by some killer artwork (there's different versions for both the vinyl and the compact disc.) I personally prefer the LP, it's perhaps one of the most detailed doom cover ever, it's showing some sort of wizard (well, duh?) possessing unparallelled power due to a magical tome (hence the title of the album!?) while some weird bards are playing, naked women are dancing and some intense stuff involving eagles and celestial forces are happening in the sky. The CD version is simplified a little and features a bird man reading said tome but has the same beige & black colour scheme.

This album is certainly a jewel found in the doom metal underground and you can be sure you'll have a good time listening to it if you dig the genre like I do. Mandatory, I've heard the album only this year but it would legitimately top my 2013 end list, that's for sure. You went to Tasmania, you looked for the devil but you've found the wizar'd!

The nicknames of the members are worth mentioning!
Ol' Rusty Vintage Wizard Master – Vocals, guitars
Blackie the Crimson Heretic of a Thousand Eyes - guitars
Iron Tyrant - drums
Tangerine Dream - bass

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